A Man into a Multitude
Preached by Jason Abbott
How many of you were attending Community Free Church three years ago? How many of you have come to Community Free Church in the last three years? How many of you are just finding out that you’re at Community Free Church? (Welcome, welcome…I’m glad I could help you find that out.)
Well, the chances are that about half of you-all were around three years ago and about half of you weren’t here three years ago. At least, the numbers say that. Our average Sunday morning attendance was about 130 people back then, and it’s about 260 people now. Praise God for that! Praise God for growing his people—his family—in this local church body!
Thank God for more people to love and to be loved by!
Did you know this has always been part of God’s plan—to grow his people? From the book of Genesis (the Bible’s very first book) to the book of Revelation (the Bible’s very last book), God has been about the multiplication of his worship through the multiplication of his worshipers. So, that’s why it’s good and it’s right to praise God for the growth that we’ve experienced. Since, it encourages us that God’s at work here among us!
However, such growth typically comes with its own set of growing pains. More people to love means we need more chairs to sit in, classrooms to learn in, and parking spaces to park in. And more people to love will mean more organizing and more planning and more volunteering. It will also inevitably mean more crying and more fighting and more forgiving. You see…it means more challenges!
Over the next six weeks, we’ll be looking at what the Bible says about this. We will travel across the vast landscape of Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation, in order to see God’s good news plan to grow his kingdom and the challenges, also, which we will face as we follow after him toward his plan’s consummation. So, we’ve a big task before us in the next six weeks, don’t we?!
Today, we’re going to tackle the terrain of the 1st twelve chapters of Genesis. We can’t see every stream and tree of it, but we can see the overall lay of the land. So today (and in the series) it’ll be as if we’re in a single-engine puddle jumper taking in the majestic lay of God’s redemptive landscape.
This is big picture stuff, but if we want to love more people, as we follow after God, it’s essential that we see where he’s been and where he’s taking us. Therefore, let’s pray that he will teach us these things….
A Man into a Multitude: an overview of Genesis 1-12
Well we’ll have three puddle landings—(1st) the multiplication of worship; (2nd) the multiplication of wrong; and (3rd) the multiplication of worship redeemed.
1. The multiplying of worship (Genesis 1-2)!
In the opening two chapters of the Bible, we’re introduced to Adam and Eve who are put, by God, in the perfection of Eden to love and worship and image him. They’re given a mission. God commands them:
“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28).
Notice two things about this command. First, notice that they are to rule. They’re to worshipfully image God in their position over the creatures of the earth. They’re to be king and queen of creation who, through the activities of their reign, bring praise and glory to God—the King of the entire universe.
Second, notice that Adam and Eve are supposed to multiply—to have kids, to make more kings and queens. They’re commanded by God to have a multitude of divine image-bearers who’ll bring endless praise and glory to God. In this way, God instructed Adam and Eve to multiply his praises to the very ends of the earth, to literally fill the earth by birthing new worshipers.
What a plan! It was very truly a paradise project. God created Adam and Eve for the worshipful work of growing a perfect garden into a perfect global city. (Don’t let your fallen imagination derail you at this point. Don’t think dirty city. Don’t think crime-ridden city. Think divinely safe and beautiful garden city!)
In Jefferson City, my hometown, there was originally a construction plan. Houses were to be built of stone or brick with parks constructed every few blocks, within walking distance of each home. It was a good plan but was abandoned during a sustained period of recession. How sad!
I wonder if you ever think of what Harrisburg could be. Do you ever think about it in its heyday? Do you ever imagine what it might look like without trash and without poverty and without crime? Do you ever imagine what it would be like if diversity and hospitality and industry were redeemed in Harrisburg? I hope so because, as believers, we’re called to dream of and work toward this vision!
You see, in Christ, the paradise project has been reinstituted and redeemed. Christians are to be a gospel people who don’t only pray “Your kingdom come…” but work for its coming. So, friends, work for it!
- Share the gospel with your neighbors.
- Invite non-believers to church with you.
- Volunteer to serve in Christian ministries that seek restoration in the city: Center for Champions, Bethesda Mission, or Young Life.
Don’t ignore this call of Christ’s lordship since it’s one of the primary ways in which the Lord’s kingdom comes progressively each day into your own world. Well, that’s an overview of chapters one and two. Let’s now consider chapter three through eleven since there we find a different kind of multiplication taking place:
2. The multiplying of wrongs (Genesis 3-11)!
Have you ever considered how Adam and Eve must’ve felt about their sin against God? It must have been very painful for them to remember their rebellion on the eastside of Eden. You see, with the exception of maybe Joseph and Mary, only Adam and Eve were able to directly connect their sin to the death of a son? So, just as Joseph and Mary would’ve known that their sin (along with our sin) caused Jesus’s death by crucifixion, Adam and Eve would’ve known that their sin (all alone!) caused Abel’s death by Cain.
Their sin grew! And that’s just Genesis four. It’s all downhill from there.
- In Genesis five, death multiplies on the earth.
- In Genesis six, corruption multiplies on the earth.
- In Genesis seven through eleven, God hits reset, yet death and corruption and conspiracy (against a holy God) multiply upon the earth again.
In these nine chapters, sin grows and grows like cancer. But…why?
Look, I have five children. And, while there’s really nothing more satisfying than having one of my children (one of my own little image bearers) behave well, there’s also nothing more horrifying than seeing them exhibit bad behavior, especially when their sinfulness is a reflection of my own sinful influence on them. (By the way, every parent experiences this at some time or another—seeing our sin in our children!)
This common experience hints, I think, at why sin multiplies on the earth. See, people are indeed fruitfully multiplying and filling the earth (Genesis 1:28); yet, we’re not filling it with little innocent and worshipful kings and queens. Rather, we’re filling it with little rebels like ourselves. Whenever we have a child, we would do well to thank God for the blessing of that precious life he’s given us, and, then, to simultaneously beg his forgiveness for bringing another little sinner into the world. (Sorry, but good theology has no place for naïve sentimentality!)
Is it Nature or Nurture? Yes! There’s no debate within the biblical literature. The Bible bluntly tells us children are born sinners and naturally learn to sin better by watching countless adult sinners—who are around them every single day— demonstrate creative new ways to sin.
So, wrongs multiply upon the earth because wrongdoers multiply upon it. That’s why it gets so very bad. In fact, you know a situation is really, really dire when grace must be drastic and, even, seemingly harsh. Like:
- When loving a rebellious child means kicking him or her out.
- When loving an abusive neighbor is to call the police on him.
These are drastic and seemingly harsh measures. But they are gracious too! And sometimes love must be drastic and must seem harsh.
In chapters three through eleven, God acts with such grace more than once. What seems drastic or harsh to us is actually a visitation of God’s grace on people. Consider, for example, the final verse of chapter three:
[God] drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:24).
Have you ever wondered about this verse before? Maybe you’ve thought: “Now that seems a bit much. God’s just rubbing it in now.”
Yet, asking another question might shed some light on how this is gracious. Simply ask yourself: “How could this situation, of multiplying sins, get any worse for Adam and Eve (and for us)?” The answer: “It could go on forever, unchecked.” Sinners living forever and sinning forever is worse. In fact, it sounds like hell.
In way of application, allow me to say, if you’re a follower of Jesus Christ then you are commanded, in certain situations, to exercise this kind of drastic grace or, what I’d call, grace with an edge. For example:
- There are times when it is gracious to tell a friend to give up his phone because he’s addicted to pornography.
- There are times when it is gracious to tell a friend to stop valuing herself by the clothing, décor, relationships, and shapes of other women.
There are times when grace must be drastic—when it must even look harsh. If you don’t believe me simply imagine what a life that’s addicted to pornography or constantly measured in comparison to others looks like when its left unchecked for thirty or forty years. There are times when grace must have an edge.
Well, the Lord God graciously checks the multiplication of sins and sinners in these nine chapters. And, that begs the question: “Why? Why’s he doing this?” And this brings us to our final point.
3. The multiplying of worshipers redeemed (Genesis 12:1-3)!
In chapter twelve of Genesis, the tide turns. Let me read the first few verses. There the author tells us:
Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you…and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 12:1-3).
Here, it’s important that we notice two things with Abram—one about him and another about his calling.
What should we notice about Abram? Just that he’s not particularly special. The Bible says absolutely nothing to set us up for why God would choose Abram. In fact, as you read further, you find Abram is really pretty much an average guy. He lies; he’s insecure; he’s not especially smart; he’s often absent in his marriage; he follows really bad advice. He’s pretty average.
But, God commands him to go…and he goes.
Friends, this is just a gospel picture. If God chooses to continue to grow us, he’ll grow us with people like Abram. If you’re a follower of Jesus then it isn’t because you were especially righteous or lovable or smart. If you’re his follower, it’s because, when he called you, you followed him; you trusted him; you believed and obeyed him. I’ll say two things:
- If you’re a member of this fellowship and we continue to grow larger, your job isn’t to decide whether you like the people who are coming here or not. Your job is to welcome them and help them grow in their faith just as people must have helped you do so (and still do so now!).
- If you’re not a believer and think that becoming a believer is mainly about following rules, then look at Abram. He doesn’t earn God’s love; God simply calls him and he follows. Friends, if you hear God’s call, don’t think you need to change before you can follow him. Follow him! And a beautiful transformation will take place in you as you do.
Finally, what should we notice about Abram’s calling? Well, it’s essentially about more people to love. God’s going to bless Abram and all kinds of people from around the world, right…“all the families of the earth” (v. 3)? God says: “Follow me and I’ll love more people through you.” His paradise plan!
Note, however, it’s not going to be easy for Abram to follow God in this. God’s plan entails major inconveniences—like leaving his country and his family and all that’s familiar to him. Following God (in this loving more people plan) means stepping into the unknown and uncomfortable for Abram.
And, it’ll mean the same for us when we follow God—taking on new roles, parking a little further from church, introducing ourselves to visitors each week, volunteering to serve as needs arise. No…it won’t all be easy!
Yet, God promises that it’ll be worthwhile and even glorious when we do so. God promise that trusting him through all that is uncomfortable and difficult for us can have profoundly valuable results. God promises us this and demonstrated this in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ for our salvation.
May Jesus be both our hope and our motivation as we love more people! May we be a people who multiply God’s worship and his worshipers! Amen.